2012 MLB Draft: Pirates Select Mark Appel 8th Overall


Up until minutes before the draft, the Houston Astros’s were expected to take Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, with Byron Buxton the main other option.  Instead, they went with high school shortstop Carlos Correa, surprising everyone.  As a result, the free fall for Mark Appel began.  Finally, with the #8 overall pick, the Pirates selected the Cardinal right handed pitcher. It wasn’t a huge fall for Appel, but virtually every pundit and expert expected Mark Appel to be picked in the first 5 picks.  Both Baseball America and ESPN ranked Appel as the fourth best player in the draft. Meanwhile, MLB.com ranked him second. In addition, our very own most recent mock draft had Appel going to the Astros.  So while Appel, along with many others, expected to hear his name called much earlier than it was, the Pirates have to be thrilled with their most recent draft fortune.

The Stuff

At 6’4 and 215 lbs, Mark Appel has a perfect pitcher’s frame, giving off the impression of a future workhorse.  Generally, workhorses find value in eating innings in the middle of a rotation.  Pegging that – a middle rotation starter – as Appel’s ceiling would be selling him short.  Instead, Appel has the potential to be a true front-of-the-rotation ace thanks in large part to a premium pitch arsenal.  It start’s with the fastball, Appel’s best pitch.  The recent draftee can crank his heater up to 99 mph and it generally sits in the mid 90’s deep into games.  Appel compliments his fastball with two secondaries, a slider and a changeup.  There is debate over which pitch is currently better as Appel can be inconsistent with both pitches at times.  Despite that, consensus seems to believe that both secondaries – the slider and the changeup – could become plus offerings in the future, giving Appel the potential to have an arsenal with 3 pitches that grade out at 60 or above.  Further pluses for Appel include good athleticism, plus makeup, and above-average command.

However, there are negatives with Appel.  Similar to the Pirates first round pick last year, UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole, Appel has gotten hit harder throughout his college career than his stuff would suggest he would.  Part of that has to do with a long, slow delivery that shows the ball to hitters, limiting the deception of Appel’s pitches.  In addition, while Appel’s fastball has elite velocity, the movement on the pitch is mediocre, especially if Appel throws it up in the zone, making it relatively easy to square up on.  Last but definitely not least is the concern with Stanford pitchers.  Recent history shows that Stanford pitchers have performed poorly as pros with some speculation pointing to arm abuse, another potential  might be a factor in the Mark Appel equation.

Overall, if Appel can avoid injury and improve his game in a few distinct ways, his ceiling is immense.  If the recent draftee is able to tweak his delivery to add deception and some movement to his fastball, the pitch could be an elite one.  In addition, Appel could improve by polishing his command a bit and refining his two secondaries, the slider and especially the changeup.  If all this happens, Appel has the tools to succeed as one of the ten best pitchers in major league baseball when all is said and done.


2010: 38 IP, 5.92 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 26 K, 19 BB
2011: 104.1 IP, 3.02 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 83 K, 26 BB
2012: 119.0 IP, 2.27 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 127 K, 26 BB

The Future

Mark Appel joins former Pirate first round picks Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole to form a deadly trio of elite pitching prospects atop the Pirates farm system.  History tells us that prospects fail, but if the Pirates are granted good fortune, they could have a rotation headlined by three aces, one of which is Appel.  In addition to having an excellent ceiling, Appel is regarded as a fairly advanced college pitcher with the ability to move quickly through a system.  That said, the Pirates under current General Manager Neal Huntington have been ultra-conservative with pushing prospects as evidenced by Gerrit Cole – the #1 overall pick last year who was also regraded as having the potential to move quickly – still pitching for High-A Bradenton despite having a solid year thus far.  For comparison, other 2011 top college pitching draftees Danny Hultzen and Trevor Bauer are already at Double-A and Triple-A respectively.  Therefore, assuming he signs, expect Appel to get a few starts this year, either at Low-A West Virginia or High-A Bradenton.  Next year, expect him to start at High-A Bradenton, with Double-A Altoona a remote possibility.  That should give Appel an outside chance of arriving in Pittsburgh by 2014, with 2015 a stronger possibility.  When he does, it could give the Pittsburgh Pirates one of the most feared rotations in all of baseball.

For more on the Pittsburgh Pirates, check out Rumbunter and for more on Appel click here and here